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City gets final payment from FEMA

Location: Alton, IL

City gets final payment from FEMA
Tuesday, May 9, 2006

ALTON - The final "Katrina" check finally hit the mail and landed in the hands of the city's fire chief, to his delight Monday.

"It's great; it's icing on the cake," said Alton Fire Chief John Sowders. "I wasn't expecting any money last fall" when he OK'd two firefighters' rescue and body recovery trips to Louisiana. "It was our responsibility to help, we got so much help in (the Great Flood of 1993). It is great we got reimbursed."

Sowders received a check for $20,553 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday, the full amount of a bill he submitted to the agency.

Sowders said the money covers costs of salaries and overtime for now-Deputy Fire Chief Greg Bock and Assistant Chief Brad Sweetman, who went to Atlanta, then New Orleans, last fall to help in rescue and body recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

The money will go into the city's general fund.

The check arrived within a few weeks of a reporter making an inquiry to Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's office in Chicago about the delay in payment to the Alton Fire Department. The call prompted one of Obama's staff members to call Sowders for details.

"Obama's office got involved, and FEMA reimbursed us in a very timely fashion," Sowders said.

Sowders said he believed the department had filed reimbursement papers last fall, but Obama's staff member said other documents still needed filing, which Sowders did.

He had believed in early April that the department was due $27,883 but revised the amount downward after reviewing the paperwork. He said previously that he thought former Fire Chief Tim Spaulding had sent letters to Obama and U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello asking about the delay in payment.

The latest check brings FEMA and a statewide police agency up to square with the city of Alton for expenses it incurred by sending the two firefighters and two police officers to Louisiana, and for services related to hurricane-displaced people housed at the Alton Mental Health Center.

FEMA previously reimbursed the city $62,071 for firefighter paramedics who ran health checks on people and for additional police security at the center.

The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System also reimbursed the city $14,402 for costs associated with Deputy Police Chief Jody O'Guinn and Pfc. Jonathan Forrler's rescue and recovery work in Louisiana in September.

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